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New York Times editorial calls Duterte 'man who must be stopped'

MANILA, Philippines – A day after Filipino lawyer Jude Sabio filed a communication with the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and 11 other officials of mass murder, the New York Times (NYT) released an editorial on Tuesday, April 25, supporting Sabio's effort.

The ICC, said the editorial, "should promptly open a preliminary investigation into the killings.

The New York Times editorial board, in its piece "Let the world condemn Duterte," explained that watchdogs, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and Filipino politicians have already accused Duterte of mass killings. ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, meanwhile, declared in October the court was "closely following" Philippine developments.   

Calling Duterte the "man who must be stopped," the op-ed said the ICC should go after Duterte as "there is already more than enough evidence for a preliminary investigation, which would send an unmistakable signal to Mr. Duterte that he may eventually have to answer for his crimes, and would encourage governments to take measures against him, such as imposing tariffs on Philippine goods."

Duterte's own words, NYT added, serve an indictment against the man. The op-ed recounted how Duterte once said, as he was being compared to Hitler, "Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there is three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them.” Duterte also misstated the figure for the Holocaust, which is 6 million, in his statement. 

Backing the President up

The President's chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, as well as Presidential Spokemsan Ernesto Abella, reacted strongly to the editorial.

In an interview in Malacañang, Panelo called the piece "reckless, irresponsible, and baseless."

He said there was "no basis in fact and in law in the editorial of the New York Times.” He added that “no findings have been made by any of the investigating body that conducted probe on the alleged extrajudicial killings, in fact, there is a finding by the Philippine Senate that the so-called extrajudicial killing are not state-sponsored or state-initiated.”

In a statement, Abella pointed to the size of the drug problem the President is attempting to tackle, calling it a "cancer on our nation." He said Duterte's number one priority is "to save lives and to improve the lot of all of our countrymen with the cooperation of law enforcement officials, public health professionals, civil society, and committed citizens."

Abella added: "Consider the following tangible results: Crime is down by 30% across our nation during the first few months of this Administration when compared with the last months of the previous administration. More than 8 of 10 Filipinos surveyed by Pulse Asia in Metro Manila feel safer. Drug addicts are taking steps to find the help they need with more than 1.18 million addicts turning to the government for rehabilitation and other assistance." – Rappler.com